Comptroller Investigates City’s Role in Sale of Former Rivington House Facility

Rivington House, 45 Rivington St.
41 Rivington St.
45 Rivington St.

After months of silence from the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, city officials finally appear to be taking at least a somewhat serious look at the loss of a community facility on Rivington Street.

As The Lo-Down first reported Dec. 18, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) lifted a deed restriction on the former Rivington House nursing home building at 45 Rivington St. The onetime facility for AIDS patients, was sold to the Allure Group last year. The firm briefly operated a general services nursing home from the building but re-sold the property to luxury developers in a $118 million deal that came to light last month.

Last night at a meeting of Community Board 3, a representative of NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer passed out a letter written to DCAS Commissioner Lisette Camilo on March 7. “Based on the facts and circumstances of the sale as we understand them,” Stringer wrote, “this matter requires greater transparency and disclosure to the general public.”

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) is reporting on the comptroller’s inquiry:

The New York City comptroller is examining a decision by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to lift deed restrictions on a Manhattan building, a move that led to a nursing home operator making a $72 million profit off the property’s sale. Comptroller Scott Stringer has asked a city agency for details on its decision last year to remove restrictions that had limited the use of Rivington House on the Lower East Side to a not-for-profit residential health-care center. The 118-year-old, 150,000-square-foot building at 45 Rivington St. had previously served HIV/AIDS patients.

Austin Finan, a mayoral spokesperson, told the Journal:

The city was as disappointed as local residents to later learn not only that the property would no longer provide needed health services but that the valuation of the deed restriction did not reflect current market values that could have generated affordable housing or other uses for the public’s benefit.

According to Finan, all deed restriction applications have been put on hold while a review is conducted. A new commissioner has been on the job at DCAS since January. The “processes by which deed restrictions are valued, and restriction removals are authorized” are under review and “subject to overhaul,” said Finan.

In a statement, Stringer said:

It is incomprehensible that this property, which provided long-term care for patients with HIV/AIDS for more than two decades, would reportedly be converted into market-rate luxury housing without robust discussion, transparency and input from the community it serves.

Community Board 3 in January approved a resolution that read, in part:

This action to lift the deed restriction occurred out of public view, with a total lack of transparency and without fair or reasonable public notice… CB3 calls on the City to disclose information as to what transpired with respect to this transaction.

While the offices of City Council member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer have been looking into the matter, they have refrained from making expansive public statements about the Rivington House situation. In the Journal, Chin is quoted as saying, “We thought everything was going to be fine… Now we might get stuck with a luxury condo building. This is not what the community fought for.”